Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Navigating Qatar’s Roads – A Journey

On this blog I frequently discuss issues around traffic and construction. Qatar is growing by leaps and bounds so the infrastructure is struggling to keep up with the growth. That means lots of tearing up roads, upgrading roads, and building new roads. One problem with that is it can be difficult to keep up with what road is closed and what isn't.

So a little while ago I took a journey out to the Industrial Area to get something checked out with my car. Nothing major, just one of those things you ought to get fixed so when I had some spare time I figured why not let’s get out there and get it done.

Most people dread having to go to the Industrial Area given the crazy traffic and poorly maintained roads, but in my case the garage is located on the edge of the Industrial Area close to the main road so it’s actually pretty easy to get to. They even did a major upgrade to the road there, with flyovers, so the traffic should be even smoother.

So off I went to the Industrial Area, turned on to the overpass from Salwa road, went down to the Industrial Area, saw the garage on the corner . . .

. . . and proceeded to drive right past it. There was a flyover at the intersection where the garage was but the exit lane wasn’t finished so you couldn't turn off. So over the flyover I had to go.

Down about a kilometer was another flyover but this time the exit lane was finished so I exited there, saw a sign for the street were my garage was located, noting to go into the u-turn lane to get back to the area. So I did a went under the flyover, and drove a kilometer back to the other flyover. There was a lot of construction but at least I could exit the road to go under the flyover to the street the garage was on. Amidst the instruction I saw one of those signs that had a left arrow and a forward arrow, pointing towards various lanes. I wanted to go left so I went in the left one. . .

. . . which turned out to be a U-turn lane, forcing me to come back out onto the main road. *sigh

So I had to drive a kilometer to the other flyover, do a U-turn, and drive another kilometer to get back to the construction zone. This time at the sign I went forward instead of left . . .

. . . and kept driving straight. The road under the flyover was not finished yet so you couldn't turn left. *sigh

All the while this was happening I could see the garage. In fact at some point I was probably no more than 30m from it but I'm not sure if there is any way to get to it. Kind of like that scene in the movie Little Miss Sunshine, where they keep circling around on the freeways trying to get to a hotel but can't find the exit to get to it.

Thankfully I could pull off to the right and go to a nearby gas station. I needed gas anyway so I pulled in and tried to figure out what to do next. After getting gas I left the gas station and followed the road . . .

. . . out of the Industrial Area! The exit from the gas station did not get you back onto the road as it was under construction so it instead detoured you into the next neighborhood. *sigh*

So I would need to get back to Salwa Road, enter the Industrial Area, go to the second flyover, turn right at the flyover, and navigate 12 blocks of back roads to get to the garage.

So I went home. This Kafka-esque situation just wasn't worth the hassle. Maybe I'll go back in a couple weeks when, hopefully, everything is sorted out. Maybe I’ll call first and get directions.

Anyway, this is the kind of thing that you just have to roll with when you're in Qatar. Sometimes roads get torn up or closed and while the construction company sends out notices in the papers there's so much construction going on you quickly lose track of it all.

Friday, March 27, 2015

2015 Qatar International Food Festival

So the diet went out the window today as I spent this evening at the Qatar International Food Festival in the park at the Museum of Islamic Art. I wanted to go to opening night but I was busy so I settled for Friday night to go this year.

The Festival is really getting popular, a lot more people than last time. Check out the crowds:

Thankfully they did away with the ticket system that they used in the past (you had to go to a booth to buy tickets to redeem at the vendors -- created massive line-ups for tickets). Now you just pay the vendor for the food. You still had to wait in line at most places though because of how busy it was but I didn't wait longer than 5-10 minutes.

They also had the "Dinner in the Sky" that I saw in a previous festival, where they seat you on a platform which they then lift up in the air and you have dinner up there. Nice view I'm sure.

So what did I eat? Mostly samples of food from the big hotels or restaurants on the Pearl. Over the course of the evening I had a beef pie, some pasta arribiata, a small chicken dish, a slice of pizza, and a chocolate muffin. It was all pretty good. There were tons of booths so there was no way I could try it all. I then went to the far end of the park to watch the fireworks (they start around 8:50pm)

Because of the crowds I don't think there's any way you'll get parking close by so either use the shuttle service or maybe park at Souq Waqif and walk over. Be warned that due to the crowds there were long lineups for the restrooms.

The Festival ends tomorrow night so if you haven't been you still have a chance.

Sunday, March 22, 2015


Since early this morning it's been raining in Doha. Occasionally it would stop but for the most part it's been raining all day. At times it's been raining quite hard -- I don't recall seeing anything like it in the last few years. Social media is of course all excited, with people taking pictures and posting them up.

Remember, this is a country where you could potentially go ten months without seeing rain, a solid rainfall like this is quite rare.

Of course Qatar is not designed to cope with a large amount of rain so in many places drainage can be a problem and water builds up, flooding some streets and roundabouts.

It's usually not too annoying, though I recall last year an underpass flooded because of a lack of drainage. The real danger comes if you drive on streets you are not familiar with. Some streets, especially in the Industrial Area, can have huge potholes and other hazards, things you won't see if a lot of water covers the street. What might look like an innocent puddle could be a foot-deep pothole. Thankfully I know where the dips and divots are in my neighborhood so it's easy enough to avoid. No way I'm driving in an unfamiliar neighborhood though until the rain has mostly drained away.

Still raining now, almost 18 hours of rain. With luck there’ll be a lot of flowers out in the desert next week.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

St. Patrick's Day

It's St. Patrick's Day! Time to wear green. I have a tie that I only wear on this day

It's definitely a bit "intense" shall we say. An Irish colleague said, "Now that's an appropriate tie for St. Patrick's Day -- and no other day". (lol)

But why stop at a tie, there's casual wear as well.

Happy St. Patrick's Day everyone.

Sunday, March 08, 2015

Pests - Doha Style

So a Qatari friend of mine has nearly finished building his home. The last touches will be done over the next few days and then he and his family can move in. He invited me for a tour so I could see it (once his family moves in it's extremely unlikely I'd ever go into the house, men will meet at his majlis, which is separate from the house.)

What was amusing was the pest that had infiltrated the house.

Pigeons! Two different bathrooms had a pigeon in it, they get in through a hole in the window where the exhaust fan is supposed to be. My friend told me there's usually a pigeon in a third bathroom as well.

At least Qataris have a way to deal with that:

Pigeon infestation -- I suppose there's worse things to deal with.

Saturday, March 07, 2015

Population Growth in Qatar

In February Qatar's population grew by 109,000 to 2.33 million. Over 100,000 people in one month. That's 4.5% growth in population in a MONTH!

The drop in oil and gas prices has not caused a huge slowdown in Qatar. While a few projects have been canceled or put on hold, such as that big QP/Shell project or the bridge over Doha Bay, the truth is that most of the projects have to be finished for the 2022 World Cup: the Metro, the airport expansion, Lusail city, the stadiums, the infrastructure improvements, all of this still needs to be finished regardless of what the oil price is. The Qatar Government might see a deficit in 2015, which would the first time Qatar has run a deficit for over a decade. Things have got to get built.

And the population growth slows no signs of slowing down. The Bangladeshi ambassador has mentioned that around 50,000 Bangladeshis will likely be arriving in Qatar in the next three months. The Philippine ambassador has mentioned plans for 90,000 new arrivals from his country. That's 140,000 right there, not including new workers from India, Pakistan, Nepal, and other nearby countries.

Naturally this continues to put pressure on housing, causing rental rates to rocket. The rent on my apartment went up 15% this year, and some people are seeing rent increases of 30% or more. I don't see this trend changing in the next few years. Construction is everywhere and tons of new apartment buildings are going up but I'm not sure it will be able to keep pace with demand. Yes, I know a lot of the people arriving are construction workers and other low-income workers who will probably be housed in corporate-provided housing, but if even 5% of the new arrivals are people from other sectors looking for apartments, that is 7000 people from the Philippines and Bangladesh alone looking for housing. That's a lot of apartments and villas.

Naturally traffic will just get worse. There's a lot of road upgrades going on to try to alleviate the problem but I think it's just trying to catch up with the growth. Once the road is expanded or improved the population growth is such that tons of extra cars are using the road so you right back to the same congestion. The Minister of Urban Planning must be having a real problem trying to keep up with it all, I don't envy him. It doesn't stop people complaining about the traffic and there's always news reports about the traffic problems, something I don't see getting any better until the Metro is finished.

I just try to focus on the positives and then roll with it. Lots of things have been completed in the last eight years, Doha looks nothing like it did when I arrived in 2006, and I know that while there's tons of construction now there's plenty more great things to come.

Thursday, March 05, 2015

Updates on Musherib and Souq Waqif

The new Musherib district is coming along nicely, the side nearest the Diwan is almost ready to go.

They now have a sidewalk along the street you can walk along, and along one of the buildings are what appears to be white marble walls with Arabic inscriptions. Poems, perhaps?

I still give it at least six months before phase 1 of the area is officially open but it's nice to see that it’s almost finished.

At Souq Waqif the new 2000-space parking lot opened about a month ago, which was a good thing as more parking was needed but I was sure surprised to find that the other parking lots have now been torn up! (yes both the one on Grand Hamad street and the larger one at the back of the Souq).

I'm not entirely sure what they're doing at those spots: redesigning the parking lot? Adding more buildings?

Anyway it’s not disrupting life in the Souq much, all the entertainment is still there.